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Respect paid to De Villota

2013-10-14 08:45

LOVED BY ALL: F1 drivers observed a moment of silence in memory of Marussia's test driver Maria de Villota before the Japanese GP after she was found dead on Oct 11. Here she is pictured before her horrific crash in 2012. Image: AFP

SUZUKA, Japan - Formula 1 drivers paid their respects on Sunday to Spanish former test driver Maria de Villota before the start of the 2013 Japanese GP.

Villota was found dead in a hotel room in Seville, Spain, on Friday, sending shock waves through the paddock in Japan.

The drivers, led by double World champion Fernando Alonso, removed their caps and observed a minute's silence before the track parade at Suzuka.


Autopsy reports confirmed she died from natural causes. She was 33. The F1 Grand Prix Drivers' Association had also decided the podium in Suzuka would be dedicated to the driver's memory after being stunned by news of her death.

Villota lost her right eye in a horrific crash while testing for the Marussia team in 2012 and Spanish coroners have said the severe head injuries she sustained had more than likely contributed to her death. The daughter of former Formula 1 driver Emilio De Villota, she was the first Spanish woman to enter the sport when she joined Marussia in 2012 as a test driver.

However, just four months later, her near-fatal collision while parking her race car at Duxford Airfield in Cambridgeshire, England, turned her world upside down.

Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn, who became the first female team principal in the sport in 2012, believes she left a legacy for future female drivers to follow. "If anybody represented strength and optimism, it was Maria," she said.

Double F1 champion Fernando Alonso said he was in shock after hearing the news ahead of the Japanese GP. "It's very sad news for the world of motorsport. Maria was loved by everybody."

Stay with Wheels24 for the 2013 F1 season – fresh reports every day.

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